When it comes to movies about the heart-wrenching experience of divorce, one has to arguably go back to the 1979 Dustin Hoffman-Meryl Streep 5-time Oscar winner Kramer vs. Kramer. While that pic explored issues, still relevant today, about female empowerment and single fatherhood, Netflix’s Marriage Story, which was the runner-up for TIFF’s Grolsch People’s Choice Award, goes further to examine how the legal system greatly complicates separation, not to mention the emotional cliff that happens between marriage counseling and finally letting go.
Many have assumed that this latest movie from Noah Baumbach is based on his divorce from Oscar-nominated actress Jennifer Jason Leigh; his 2005 movie The Squid and the Whale exploring his own parents’ divorce.
“It’s a personal movie, but it’s not based on my personal life. I mean, I certainly have a personal connection to the material. My parents divorced when I was younger, and I went through a divorce as an adult. But when I started writing the script, I saw how it was an opportunity to tell a kind of more expansive story. So, I did research. I interviewed people who have gone through divorces, professionals who work in the system, lawyers, judges, and it’s something that so many families go through. So, I sort of saw it as opportunity to really kind of invent this story.”
In prepping the script, Baumbach consulted his leading stars, Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson on their experiences when it comes to divorce. Driver plays an esteemed New York theater director whose wife, a Hollywood actress who has soared at this theater company, brutally divorces him and heads back West with their young son.
Says Driver, who received his first Oscar nomination last year for Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, “It was kind of a personal story for everybody. Everyone had a relationship with divorce, and even just the technical part, there [were] other things that Noah and I talked about that he wrote, and just the idea of playing with an audience’s loyalty, of starting with someone and then transitioning to, ‘Maybe, actually, I’m on this person’s side.’ Or ‘actually, maybe, I’m on this person’s side,’ and then realizing, ‘Oh, because they’re people, and there is really no side.’ It’s just a kind of tragedy. Or just this idea of, ‘Maybe it’s about love transitioning,’ what that feels like when you’ve come to know someone second nature, and suddenly all those kind of molecules, [and] your unspoken way of being in a room with someone is totally different, and you have to rip that out of you.”
Marriage Story gets a theatrical release from Netflix on Nov. 6, and will be available to stream on Dec. 6.
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